Of the inline fours, the CBR is the most anemic in the power department. But that didn’t keep Duke Danger from lofting the front wheel in the air and striking a pose for Tyler Maddox.
Honda’s biggest CBR was perhaps the most controversial bike during both street and track testing. It received universal praise for its unflappable handling equaling or exceeding the stellar Ducati but left some of us unimpressed by its excitement factor. Perhaps only a manufacturer like Honda could discipline a 145-horsepower superbike into something that could almost be termed as docile.
While social deviants like Hutch and myself were underwhelmed by its relatively meek status in this group of overachievers, the sane ones among us extolled the virtues of this well-engineered piece of kit. As such, we nominate the CBR1000 with the “Best Literbike for Newbies” title if a new rider were to be so foolish.
“There’s a lot to be said for an open-class bike that doesn’t make you crap your pants every time you touch the throttle,” notes MCUSA president and Grand Poobah Don Becklin.
The CBR rolls into this contest unchanged from its third-place finish in the street portion of last year’s Superbike Smackdown, so it would be hard-pressed to move up the rankings with the introduction of the new Gixxer Thou and spendy Duc. And yet the Honda how typical has no obvious warts that appreciably pull down its score.
Where it falls shortest is on our scales, exerting a force of 436 lbs. That’s easily the heaviest in this group, more even than the old CBR954RR and the Ducati and V-Twins are always heavier than Fours. Damn, Big Red! You’re 30 lbs heavier than the Kawi! Honda did a brilliant job lopping weight off its 600RR this year, and we expect a similar reduction when the 2006 CBR1000 arrives.
The Honda, says BC, suffers slightly entering corners. “It just doesn’t turn in quite as quickly as the competition.” The steepest steering angle of the group and a clever steering damper that provides no resistance during normal riding help it not feel like a barge, although some riders commented that the CBR feels widest between the knees. In reality, the CBR’s extra pork isn’t felt much behind the clip-ons, especially in a street environment.
The CBR stands out from the rest of this group in its unrivalled user-friendliness for a sporting literbike and for the excellent fit and finish of its sinister shroud.
The CBR’s cockpit received generally high marks, boasting the most useful mirrors and a handy clock. (If you can buy a digital clock at a 99-cent store, why can’t all bikes come equipped with a clock?) At least one of our testers believed it has the best riding environment of the bunch. “I’ve always liked Honda’s ergos, and the 1000RR is no exception,” says Becklin, the one who cashes the most Honda kick-back checks around here. “My hands and feet just feel like they are positioned in the right places.” DB wasn’t alone in rating the Honda’s ergos high, although its longer reach to the bars than the compact Kaw and Gixxer fit our taller testers best.
The CBR’s fit and finish and attention detail is up to the usual high Honda standards, and heat from its underseat exhaust is better isolated from its rider than the other two similarly equipped bikes. We liked the CBR’s squinty-eyed nose and tidy tailsection with its trick-looking vented seat cowl. Yet in this crowd of more overt designs, the RR can be considered almost conservatively styled, particularly in the black version like our tester. “It’s a good choice for riders with conservative tastes,” observes BC.
You may have been noticing that we haven’t yet said much about the motor in this potent literbike. Well, that’s because it is the most unremarkable in this group. It just goes about its business as discreetly as a 145-horsepower bike possibly can. It fires up instantly, pulls cleanly from just above idle, and produces a smooth and linear pull all the way to its rev limiter.
“The motor is a little deceiving in how it delivers power,” says Becklin. “The bike is quiet and the power comes on so smooth, it almost feels electric. The bike is certainly not slow, but it does not compare to the kind of raw ponies and delivery method of the GSX-R and ZX.”
This kind of power is very effective but yet it seems almost too well mannered, prompting a couple of testers to ask, “Where’s the hit?” Your personality will dictate whether this is a plus or a minus. Its one power delivery flaw is some abruptness when reapplying throttle that encourages a rider to concentrate on having a smooth right hand.
- Excellent mid-corner stability
- Most user friendly package
- Typical Honda refinement
- Where’s the power?
- Hefty compared to other liter bikes
- Turn-in a little sluggish.
The CBR’s brakes are plenty strong for the street and offered good feedback, though it should be noted that they received the lowest marks in the group. “Slowing down the CBR is slightly harder than the rest, most likely due to its additional weight,” says the prolific Chamberlain, “but it is rarely noticeable on the street for most riders.” BC also noted that its suspension was right on par with all but the Ohlins-equipped Ducati.
With an MSRP of $11,299 the CBR is at least $300 more than the other Japanese bikes, but that won’t matter to devotees of The Honda Way that prioritizes a lofty build quality, a high degree of user friendliness and extensive R&D work.
“I enjoyed riding this bike the most on the street, mainly because it made me feel as if I could do no wrong,” Becklin sums up.
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